Aug 16, 2020
AFL Mad Scramble: Day Nineteen
A column every day for twenty days, as we get more football than we even asked for.
Occasionally, this column will even mention football but rarely sensibly.
North Melbourne (52) v Brisbane (53)
You can’t just turn up and just expect to get the four points against North Melbourne.
Well, you can, Brisbane did here, but it’s risky.
North certainly showed a lot of effort given their injury list contains more horror than the complete works of Stephen King.
Rhyce Shaw has set a tone that he’s not gifting anyone games, even if over half his team is injured, and the players responded, putting everything into this.
The Lions played like a bunch of players who expect to get games no matter what, and not for the first time this season, Chris Fagan had to yell at them, like a disappointed father whose kids have been caught wagging school.
His half time spray got the Lions to do the bare minimum, but nothing more, a worry for a team that is meant to have premiership aspirations.
Their aspirations are a bit like mine to have friends, possible but looking increasingly unlikely.
Melbourne (100) v Collingwood (44)
If you’re a Pies supporter, this would have made you angrier than a Sky News commentator.
The Pies handed in one of their worst performances in sometime, up against a Melbourne side that seems to have learnt that taking the time to engage your brain can pay off with big dividends.
The Demons dominated from start to finish, displaying an energy, discipline and skilfulness I can’t remember them showing in a long time.
The Pies skill level was alarming, missing simple handballs and turning over the ball so often it looked like it was something they trained to do.
On the flip side, Melbourne players who a few weeks ago couldn’t hit a target if their lives depended on it were suddenly kicking the ball like Darren Jarman.
It was a case of Melbourne’s long vaunted talent manifesting into reality.
The challenge for the Dees is to maintain this standard of play across months, not a short burst.
What it showed is what the Yankees great Yogi Berra once said is true, “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.”
What the game did show was how at any time, AFL remains an incredibly tough game to play.
Brody Mihocek was stretched off after being collected by Aaron vandenBerg’s elbow in a fair but brutal contest.
“Footy has gone soft,” say people who wouldn’t have made it through that collision.
Stamping out the cheap shots behind the play hasn’t changed the fact that the 360-degree nature of our sport makes the game not for the feint-hearted and we all just hope Mihocek makes a full and swift recovery.
Fremantle (36) v Carlton (40)
There’s a lot to unpack here, as my removalist once said to me.
If you’re a Fremantle supporter, this was the greatest miscarriage of justice since Lindy Chamberlain.
For Blues fans it was one of the greatest games of all time.
Fremantle had led for almost all the game, in what was for long stretches a dour display in the rain, but the second half had seen the Blues wrestle control back.
But Carlton looked like blowing their comeback in the dying stages when Liam Jones missed a shot, only to trigger a few seconds of footy more chaotic than my thought processes.
With 16 seconds remaining, Fremantle’s Matt Taberner was pinged for a deliberate out of bounds, which was probably there.
Then Sam Docherty took the free, and played on quickly, and in what is normally Carlton’s fashion, kicked the ball out on the full, but as he kicked, Andrew Brayshaw made contact with him and the umpire awarded a free down the field.
This call was either totally there, if you’re a Blues supporter, or a travesty of justice and proof the game is corrupt, if you’re a Fremantle supporter.
I thought it was borderline, which is the problem, it could have gone either way, you’d see it sometimes called and other times not.
With the downfield free, it was meant to go to the closest player, which would have been Michael Gibbons or Eddie Betts, but somehow Jack Newnes ended up with it.
This was the decision that Fremantle fans have a right to be most angry about, although you don’t know if either Betts or Gibbons could have kicked it. Ok, probably not Gibbons.
Then as if this wasn’t all strange enough, these last 16 seconds went for two hours, as Newnes tried to take the kick on the boundary, a cameraman with all his gear seemed not to keen to get out of his way.
Newnes had to actually remove some of the cameraman’s gear himself, with the cameraman less helpful than a member of the mafia in a police interview.
As Newnes got ready to take the kick, I wondered what of the two powerful forces at work would win out, those forces being Carlton’s ability to let down their fans, or Fremantle’s masochistic relationship with theirs?
Talk about the immovable object meeting the irresistible force.
The minute it left Newnes’ boot, the ball was home, a goal that was as skilful as it was controversial.
Even if you think all the free kicks were there, Carlton were very lucky to have the ball end up in Newnes’ hands, and Fremantle fans have a right to be furious, any supporter would be if they were on the end of that.
But Carlton fans won’t care, their team lifted in the second half and as you have to sometimes do, you take the next chance. And the next. On and on until you win... or the chances are spent.
Western Bulldogs v Adelaide (Metricon) 1:05pm Foxtel
The recent correspondence I’ve received has been a real insight into the minds of Western Bulldogs supporters.
I’ve never wanted to delve into their minds, but we’ve all realised that 2020 means things you’d always hoped to avoid are not so avoidable.
Bulldogs supporters have been complaining to me that I said the Crows won’t win a game this season, just before the Doggies play them.
It’s an insight into their psyche that they are confident such a terrible thing as being the first team to lose to the Crows will happen to them.
They may be the group of fans with the lowest self-esteem to have won a premiership in recent memory.
I can’t see them losing this. The Crows are a Victorian economy size mess, who lack talent, belief and skill. Apart from that they’re going well.
Personally, I believe the next AFL player or official to break COVID regulations would be made to coach the Crows. That will fix that mess.
Bulldogs to win.
St Kilda v Essendon (G) 3:35pm Seven
Essendon this week announced David Zaharakis will miss the rest of the season, adding to the Bombers’ injury crisis.
It’s an injury crisis so bad that the club has a new marketing campaign to ‘flatten the curve’ but that horse has bolted, and probably injured itself doing so.
You know things are Essendon are in trouble, someone will call for the return of James Hird as Brendon Goddard did this week.
It’s like clockwork.
St Kilda are coming off a brutal schooling at the hands of the Cats, and it will be interesting to see if they learnt anything from that, or they’re destined to move to that class with the kid that threw a rock at a teacher, the one that graffitied the principal’s car and the student that tried to set the gym on fire.
You’d think they’d respond after that loss, but sometimes when you’ve been embarrassed you go a bit into your shell, stop leaving your house and start an inane footy blog.
Saints to win.
West Coast v Hawthorn (OS) 6:10pm Foxtel
This will be a fun game to watch for Eagles supporters and no one else.
For neutrals, and Hawks fans, the only point of interest is enjoying the commentators taking a crack at pronouncing Changkuoth Jiath.
Footy commentators can mangle any name, often to the point of naming the complete wrong player.
Brian Taylor has twice called Harry Cunningham, ‘Brad Seymour’, this season, despite Seymour playing his last game in 2003.
Hawthorn have plunged to new lows this season, and this game could show that rock bottom has a basement.
It would be impossible for the Eagles to lose this, unless, of course, their 22 players fall victim to 22 separate misfortunes and are unable to play.
But that will never happen. Three misfortunes, that's possible... seven misfortunes, there's an outside chance... but 22 misfortunes-- I'd like to see that.
Eagles to win.
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